Lou Holtz hasn’t worried about his No. 2-ranked Notre Dame squad going flat since back in spring practice.
Notre Dame, coming off an emotional victory last week over Miami, had plenty left Saturday to beat Air Force, 41-13.
“There wasn’t anybody in the stands, there wasn’t any TV, there wasn’t any crowd, and they got after one another unbelievably,” Holtz said.
Notre Dame (7-0) limited Air Force’s wishbone attack, which had averaged 432 yards a game, to 170 yards.
“I really believe the most improved part of the Notre Dame program is their defense,” Falcon Coach Fisher DeBerry said.
Notre Dame’s Tony Rice rushed for a touchdown and passed for scores to flanker Ricky Watters and Tony Brooks, and the Irish held Air Force (5-3), which had scored at least 4 touchdowns in each game, to only 1 touchdown.
“They’re small and we’re big,” Rice said. "(The coaches) just wanted to pound it to them.”
Watters caught 4 passes for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Rice, who broke Notre Dame’s single-season quarterback rushing record set by Joe Theismann in 1970, ran 4 yards for a 2nd-quarter touchdown. Rice has rushed for 404 yards this season, breaking Theismann’s mark of 384.
The Falcons scored their only touchdown when Andy Smith ran 4 yards for a touchdown to make it 20-13 with 44 seconds to play in the half.
Notre Dame opened the 2nd half with an 81-yard scoring drive capped when Rice connected with Brooks on a 42-yard touchdown pass play.
Late in the 3rd quarter, Rice pitched to 3rd-string quarterback Steve Belles, who lined up at tailback, and Belles hit Watters on a 50-yard pass touchdown play.
Rice connected with Watters on a 28-yard pass play for Notre Dame’s final touchdown.
“I’ve dreamed about him all week long,” DeBerry said of Watters. “He scared me to death.”
Air Force scored first, on a 22-yard field goal by Steve Yarbrough. The Falcons were stalled on their first 3 possessions, twice settling for field goals by Yarbrough, who also had a 39-yarder.
“We should have put the ball in the end zone twice in the 1st half, but we settled for field goals instead,” DeBerry said.